Total U.S. government conference spending for fiscal year 2017 decreased 15.7% after three consecutive years of growth, according to an analysis by STR’s Market Insights team.

Total conference spend in 2017 was $140 million after the government spent $166 million in 2016. Previous yearly totals were $121 million in 2015, $120 million in 2014, $100 million in 2013 and $276 million in 2012.

Only conferences with a minimum total net cost of $100,000 of taxpayer money were included. Memorandum 12-12 from the Office of Management and Budget requires such conferences to be reported publicly.

“The last decrease in the industry came after reports of reckless spending by certain government departments in 2012,” said Chris Klauda, senior director of Market Insights for STR.

“That year (2013), entire industry spending dropped by nearly two-thirds following M-12-12," Klauda added. "Aside from the decrease in 2017, the most interesting finding from our study was that several agencies appear to no longer report their conference spending after reports were made public consistently for the previous five years. That is likely due to loosened enforcement of public expenditure reporting from M-17-08.”

Key findings from the STR analysis of spending from Oct. 1, 2016, through Sept. 30, 2017, include:

  • Total spending dropped $26.1 million from 2016 to 2017.
  • Spending on government conferences was roughly half of the $274 million spent in 2012.
  • 2017 spending covered 507 conferences with approximately 108,000 total attendees.
  • 2017 federal conferences averaged 218 attendees and $275,208 in spending.
  • Washington, D.C., remains the most popular location for federal meetings, followed by Orlando.
  • Each year since 2012, the greatest conference costs were incurred by the Department of Defense, Department of Veteran Affairs and Department of Health and Human Services.

STR used a comparable set of agencies from previous years to draw historical comparisons due to the lack of spending reports from the EPA, the Department of Education and Department of the Interior.